When AB9 was released back in December, it started a wave of controversy due to the requirement that players register and fund their online poker accounts at a live card room or tribal casino. Assemblyman Mike Gatto had stated that he would be open to amending the bill if it benefited the state and he has thus far kept his promise.
On Thursday, the Assemblyman announced amendments to AB9 that included reducing the live registration requirement to an “option.” Another proposed amendment would target unregulated sites that would choose to offer online poker to California residents.
Online Registration and Funding Will Be Available From the Start
Players and analysts alike balked at the original version of AB9 because it would effectively force players to drive to their local card room or Indian casino to register for their account and to make a first deposit. That requirement has now been reduced to a mere “option” for players.
Gatto stated that he met with security experts and took the concerns of both players and industry professionals when he made the decision. He stated, “I have concluded that online poker would be best served by making in-person registration an option rather than a requirement. State of the art technology currently used by operators in other states when registering players accesses many of the same databases used by financial institutions to verify the identity of registrants and prevent fraud.”
Now players can both register for their account and fund it online. This mimics what’s currently done in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. In those states, live registration and funding is available but not a requirement.
Unregulated Sites May Be Prosecuted
In an attempt to protect residents and licensees, Gatto is considering whether to prosecute online poker sites that operate outside the future regulatory framework in the state. This means that sites such as Bovada and others could be subject to felony prosecution for offering online poker in the state.
In the past, only the federal government has sought to criminally prosecute online poker sites. Kentucky attempted to seize the domains of many of the world’s top sites but did not pursue prosecution.
The state obtained a Temporary Restraining Order against DesertRoseBingo.com charging that the site operated an illegal online gambling business. The court determined that the gaming offered on the site was not tribal Class II gaming but rather a computer facsimile, or Class III gaming.
Future Changes Will Come
Gatto has claimed from the beginning that he is willing work with all stakeholders to legalize online poker, and these amendments prove he is sincere in his promise. In a press release regarding the amendments, he stated, “My goal remains creating a sensible framework for a new California industry. That will involve a thoughtful process of consultation with all of the key stakeholders. I pride myself in listening; I expect this process will continue throughout the year.”
Gatto’s willingness to work with stakeholders brings a sense of hope to both lawmakers and citizens that online poker could actually become legal in the near future. While major issues remain unresolved, Gatto’s passion for online poker legalization could help bridge the gap between stakeholders and usher in a new era for the state.